good morning! did you hear that howling winter wind sweeping around the house today? quite a shock to my system, i must say, after spending the past week in southern florida where daily temperatures were at least 80 degrees. but no matter~my house is warm and the puppies are happily curled up beside me. come in out of the cold and warm your hands around a steaming mug of fresh coffee. join the sunday salon.
i have a little confession to make…my reading this week has been very minimal, both in quantity and quality. somehow, sitting around the patio table with two friends, sharing wine and watching sunbeams sparkle on the water is not quite as conducive to reading as you would expect. oh, we all took lots of books with us, expecting to make large dents in our personal bookstacks. and we would start off happily reading, when suddenly one or the other of us might say, “did i ever tell you the story about…” well, of course one story led to another, and the books lay forlornly on the table, their pages curling in the moist tropical air.
and isn’t story telling the key to a good book anyway? certainly my favorite books have always been those with a story which catches me up, a riveting tale whose ending i simply can’t wait to discover. when i was small i loved the Little House Series, completely enthralled with the ingalls family and their tales of life on the prairie. as a teenager, i gravitated toward classic myseries by agatha christie or dorothy sayers, masters of good storytelling. throughout my adult life, my bookish tastes have run to literary novels by the likes of ann tyler, gail godwin, joyce carol oates, alice munroe, jodi picoult – women who are able to spin the familiar stories of life into something entirely fascinating and new. i’m also drawn to memoir and personal essays – anne fadiman, caroline knapp, anna quindlen – women who relate their unique stories and perceptions to life in general.
so perhaps it isn’t surprising that i would find myself more interested in the stories of my two friends than in the pages of the mystery novel i took along with me. the three of us have been friends for about 10 years, sharing an interest in music and books and teaching – yet they are each older than i, and have many stories to tell about what life was like for women coming of age in the 1950’s and 1960’s. how fascinating for me to hear these first hand accounts of becoming a woman during a time when gender roles were so much more prescribed. while i was happily playing with my school friends (and reading little house on the prairie), these two women were navigating the brave new world of working while raising a family.
i do think we all have valuable, fascinating stories to share. perhaps that’s one of the reasons i so love visiting all your blogs, reading your stories about life, and books, and your experience of the world. i also think that this practice of writing our stories – in blog posts, in essays, in journals -is not only a marvelous way to connect the human race, but also a way to discover more about ourselves, to discern and determine what our life experiences mean.
“Writing is about discovering who you really are and where you’re headed,”writes Barbara Abercombie, in her wonderful book Courage and Craft. “It’s about turning the messy, crazy, wonderful, and sad stuff in your life into something that has order and clarity and meaning-a piece of writing that other people can connect to and be moved by.”
it’s so true – listening to my friends tell their stories of relationships, family, achievements and failures, i was often moved to laughter, and sometimes to tears. when we bear witness to our lives, whether in fiction, or poetry, essay or memoir, we offer others the gift of connection, of understanding, of insight. and we often learn more about ourselves in the process.
now tell me…what’s your story?